Home > ECM, eDiscovery > Looking for Mr. Right – Revisited

Looking for Mr. Right – Revisited

I was reading a recent article by Chris Dale, where he gave an overview of Debra Logan‘s “Why Information Governance fails and how to make it succeed” keynote speech. It’s difficult to disagree with most points made in the session, but one point in particular caught my attention. Chris transcribes Debra’s thoughts as:

“…we are at the birth of a new profession, with hybrid players who have multiple strands of skills and experience. You need people with domain expertise, not just about apps and servers but data and information. The usual approach is to take people who already have jobs and give them something else to do on top or instead. You need to find people who understand the subject and teach them to attach metadata to their material, to understand document retention, perhaps even send them to law school to turn them into a legal/IT/subject matter expert hybrid.”

In parallel, I have also had several conversations, recently, relating to AIIM‘s new “Certified Information Professional” accreditation (which I am proud to possess, having passed their stringent exam). It is a valiant attempt to recognise individuals who have enough breadth of skills in Information Management, to cover most of the requirements of Debra’s “new profession“.

These two – relatively unrelated – events, prompted me to go and re-discover an article that I wrote for AIIM’s eDoc online magazine, published sometime around June 2005. Unfortunately the article is no longer online, so apologies for  embedding it here, in its entirety:

Looking for Mr. Right

Why advances in ECM technology have generated a serious skills gap in the market.

ECM technologies have advanced significantly in the last ten years. The convergence of Document/Content Management, Workflow, Searching, web technologies, records management, email capture, imaging and intelligent forms processing, has created a new information management environment that is much more aware of the value of information assets.

Most analysts agree that we are entering a new phase in ECM, where medium and large size organizations are looking to invest in ECM as a strategic enterprise deployment in order to leverage their investment in multiple business areas – especially where improving operational efficiencies and compliance are the key drivers, as these tend to have a more horizontal appeal across the organization.

But as ECM technologies are starting to become pervasive, there is a lot of confusion on the operational management of these systems. Technically, the IT department is responsible for ensuring the systems are up and running as optimally as the technology permits. But whose responsibility is it, to make sure that these systems are configured appropriately and that the information held within them is managed correctly as a valuable asset?

Think about your own company: Who decides how information is managed across your organization? With ECM, you are generating a virtual library of information that should be used and leveraged consistently across departments, geographical boundaries, organizational structures and individual responsibility areas. And if you include Business Process Management in the picture, you are also looking for common, accountable and integrated business practices across the same boundaries. Does this responsibility sit within the business community, the IT department or as a separate internal service function? And what skills would be required to support this?

There is a new role requirement emerging, which is not very well defined or understood at the moment. There is a need for an individual or a group, depending on the size of the organization, who can combine the following capabilities:

  • identify what information should be managed and how, based on its intrinsic value and legal status
  • implement mechanisms for filtering and purging redundant information
  • design and maintain information structures
  • define metadata and classification schemes and policies
  • design folder structures and record management file plans
  • define indexing topologies, thesauri and search strategies
  • implement policies and timelines for content lifecycle management
  • devise and implement record retention and disposition strategies
  • define security models, access controls and auditing requirements
  • devise schemes for the most efficient location of information across distributed architectures
  • devise content and media refresh strategies for long-term archiving
  • consolidate information management practices across multiple communication channels: e.g. email, web, fax, instant messaging, SMS, VoIP
  • consolidate taxonomies, indexing schemes and policies across organizational structures
  • etc.

And all of this, for different business environments and different vertical needs with a good understanding of both business requirements and the capabilities offered by the technology –  someone who can comfortably bridge the gap between the business requirements and the IT department.

People who can effectively combine the skills of librarian, administrator, business analyst, strategist and enterprise architect are extremely rare to find. If you can find one, hire them today!

The closest title one can use for this role today is “Information Architect” although job descriptions with that title differ significantly. More importantly, people with this collective skill set are very difficult to find today and even more difficult to train since a lot of “best practices” in this area are not established or documented.

This is a wakeup call for universities, training agencies, consultants and people wanting to re-skill: While the ECM technology itself is being commoditised, more and more application areas are opening up which will require these specialist skills. Companies need more people with these capabilities and they need them today. Without them, successful ECM deployments will remain difficult and expensive to achieve.

The more pervasive ECM becomes as an infrastructure discipline, the bigger the skill gap will become, unless we start addressing this today.

Apart from feeling slightly proud that I highlighted in June 2005 something that Gartner is raising as an issue today, this doesn’t reassure me at all: 7 years have passed and Debra Logan is (and organisations are…) still looking for Mr. Right!

I am happy that Information Governance has finally come to the forefront as an issue, and that AIIM’s CIP certification is making some strides in helping the match-making process.

But I really hoped we would have come a bit further by now…

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  1. Teresa Schoch
    January 28, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I am finding that the inability of inhouse folks to understand this need and who would be able to fill the role has made them skittish in recognising that the abilities they need are sitting right in front of them.

  2. Carl Weise
    January 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    George – your article is excellent! It really gets to the heart of the problem. There is a vast difference between managing the information assets of the organization and providing the tools that are available with ECM solutions to support our management control structures and enable the automation of our processes.

    • parapadakis
      January 31, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Thanks Carl, I appreciate the comment! 🙂

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